Nordstrom opening merchandise-free concept
Nordstrom will launch a new retail concept in West Hollywood, CA on Oct. 3, the same day the department store's Westside Pavilion store relocates to Century City, the company said in a press release emailed to Retail Dive. The store features nail beauty services, tailoring and style advice services, dressing rooms and a bar featuring alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages, the company said.
The "Nordstrom Local" concept is along the lines of Bonobos' "guideshops," which don’t have inventory for purchase, but allow customers to check out and try on garments and order them online. Bonobos, in which Nordstrom invested early on, was acquired by Walmart earlier this summer. Salespeople and stylists at the location will also use "Nordstrom Style Boards," a new tool to create digital boards filled with personalized fashion recommendations, like a summer vacation or wedding, that customers can view on their phone and purchase directly through Nordstrom.com. Along with such recommendations, customers can get advice by having a conversation with personal stylists through the app.
While the 3,000 square foot space (tiny compared to the retailer’s 140,000-square foot flagship stores) will have no apparel to buy on site, the personal stylists on hand can fetch items from nearby stores or order them online, according to the report. Online orders placed by 2 p.m. can be picked up at the "Local" that day, and returns can be made online or at a Nordstrom store, the company said.
Nordstrom has a history of retail experimentation, and this "Local" effort appears to be taking a page from the likes of Bonobos and Warby Parker, which have worked to boost online sales with brick-and-mortar showcases.
“As the retail landscape continues to transform at an unprecedented pace, the one thing we know that remains constant is that customers continue to value great service, speed and convenience,” Shea Jensen, Nordstrom SVP of customer experience and leader of the Nordstrom Local initiative, said in a statement. “We know there are more and more demands on a customer’s time and we wanted to offer our best services in a convenient location to meet their shopping needs. Finding new ways to engage with customers on their terms is more important to us now than ever."
While the department store retailer lost out on expanding its Bonobos investment — that brand has been whisked away by Walmart — it’s clearly willing to play around with some of the concepts. Of course, experimentation is risky: Nordstrom took a bit hit, in the form of a $197 million write-down, from its Trunk Club acquisition (that unit was originally founded by Bonobos co-founder Brian Spaly, who continued to lead it at Nordstrom for a time).
Nordstrom hasn't given up on Trunk Club, though it's instituted changes, including boosting some fees. Indeed, failing to try new things could be even riskier than not trying, as retail, especially apparel, continues to see a shakeout. Several specialty apparel retailers have succumbed to bankruptcy in recent months, and consumers are becoming more comfortable buying clothes and footwear online.
Despite some setbacks, Nordstrom’s acquisition strategy overall has helped the retailer reach new customers, refine its merchandising and explore cutting-edge retail concepts, according to Maya Mikhailov, co-founder and CMO of GPShopper.
"Nordstrom purchased HauteLook and Trunk Club and has made a ton of investments — in Shoes of Prey, for example. They were original investors in Bonobos as well," she said of the e-commerce brand now owned by Walmart (a point that makes Foursquare think that the department store could be acquired by the big box retailer). "They’re looking at a different M&A strategy altogether, of placing strategic bets across the board. Nordstrom is experimenting in emerging business models, which is very smart because it allows them to stay on the cusp of these trends and allows them to see what works. They’re saying 'I don’t know if there’s a market here, but I’m willing to see if the consumer will adopt this and if we can bring this to mass market.'"
- Wall Street Journal Nordstrom Tries On a New Look: Stores Without Merchandise
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